'Putting the her in HIStory': Famed journalist Cokie Roberts lectures in Great Barrington

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GREAT BARRINGTON — "I feel so strongly that a history that leaves out 50 percent of the population does a disservice."

That was the driving message from famed journalist Cokie Roberts on Wednesday evening at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington.

Roberts delivered a talk entitled "Putting the HER in HIStory" for the ninth annual Mona Sherman Memorial Lecture. The lecture series memorializes Sherman for her longtime work as the leader with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a lifelong education program based out of Berkshire Community College that serves older residents in the area.

Roberts joins a long list of accomplished journalists who have spoken to audiences as part of the lecture series, from Mika Brzezinski to Mark Halperin. But even among her peers, Roberts has added stature for the breadth and length of her career.

After a decade of working as a congressional reporter for NPR, Roberts became a political analyst for the network in 1992. Roberts also serves as a political commentator at ABC News, where she has worked since 1988.

In addition to many awards over her career— including three Emmys— Roberts was cited by the American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting. She was also declared a living legend by the Library of Congress in 2008.

Roberts is also an accomplished historian, the author of six New York Times bestsellers exploring the women behind America.

Two of those books are written for a younger audience. Roberts said she feels that teaching the youth about the role of women in building the U.S. is essential.

"Many kids grow up not understanding those contributions," she told the crowd.

Wednesday's lecture, provided for free to the public, was full to capacity.

The audience listened attentively as Roberts told the stories of women in America from the colonial era to the civil rights movement. A central theme was the role of women in healing the nation, both in developing domestic social services and in bringing together the two sides of the Civil War.

Roberts touched on the latter to remark that the friendship between Varina Davis, the widow of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis, and Julia Grant, the widow of Union General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, was an example of women setting aside differences for the good of the nation after the war.

"There are many instances of women trying to heal the country back then," said Roberts.

There was a brief question and answer period after Roberts wrapped her remarks. Most of the questions, unsurprisingly, concerned current affairs. Roberts answered questions on Trump, today's political moment, and the Clinton campaign.

An audience member asked a pertinent question in light of the talk's topic: will there ever be a woman that the American people will send to the White House?

"Maybe," replied Roberts. "But it has to be a woman the whole country responds to."

Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-496-6236 or @BE_EoinHiggins.


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